Puente in Valencia

A few friends and I spent this past weekend in one of my favorite cities – Valencia. We had a wonderful time filling our bellies with paella, horchata and fartones, biking to the beach and seeing all the beautiful sights the city has to offer.

Contrary to belief, paella is not Spain’s national dish. Each autonomous community has their own typical dishes and paella just so happens to be Valencia’s. Paella Valenciana consists of rice, chicken, rabbit, flat green beans, and alubias or garrofó.

One of my favorite ways to see and learn about a city is by going on (free) walking tours. Our hostel had daily walking tours – which was perfect! Our guide Eduardo was hilarious and extremely informative. Some sights we saw while on the tour included: Centro Arqueológico de la Almoina, the cathedral, Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparados, the beautiful Torres de Serranos that was used to protect the city, the Merat Central de València. We learned about the history of Spain (information ranged from why Spain is called Spain… It means The Land of Rabbits to an explanation of Las Fallas that take place in March).

During our tour, we stopped inside a small chocolate/sweet shop in Plaza de Santa Catalina to purchase some horchata and fartones. Although horchata can be found in the states, it is quite different from Valencian horchata. It is consumed with a farton – a sweet glazed bread. Eduardo informed us that the best way to consume a farton and horchata was to soak up the liquid by dipping the farton. It was marvelous.

Saturday was spent biking to the beach along the Túria River (which is actually dried up). The path along the river is so awesome! There were so many runners and bikers enjoying the beautiful Valencian sun. We also biked right past Parque Gulliver and La Ciudad de Ciencias y Artes; a truly breathtaking sight.

Gastronomy: Percebes

Galicia is famous for its gastronomy.  For instance, we have Padrón peppers doused in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, caldo gallego, and my personal favorite; pulpo á la feira.  Galicia is particularly famous for its excellent quality marisco, or seafood.

Percebes, or goose barnacles are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to the hard surfaces of rocks and flotsam along the coast. They have a strange appearance, slightly resembling a foot and toe, but that is exactly how they got their name. Percebe derives from the Latin words: pollicis (thumb) and pedis (foot).

Due to a small production and the risk percebeiros take to harvest them, percebes are quite expensive. This video has been beautifully put together to capture how much hard work goes into a harvest.

Returning to Life in the US

As of today, I have been living in the PNW for one month.

Thanks to my mom – who urged me to renew my position as an Auxiliar, I will be returning to Spain in late September.  In the meantime, however, all I can do is sit patiently and cross the days off the calendar. My love for Spain first blossomed when I studied abroad in León, a city located in the northwestern part of Spain. While my time there was short (the program was a quarter long), I was exposed to so much culture and new experiences, I was dying to go back as soon as I returned to the US. Luckily for me, the North American Culture and Language Assistant’s in Spain gave me that opportunity this past year.

 

León – Santiago de Compostela: Studying vs. Working and Living

My experiences in León and Santiago de Compostela differed significantly.  I studied in León through the University of Washington with a group of other UW students. We lived with host families, went to school, wrote papers, studied, etc. In Santiago, I still went to school, but in a different sense. I was no longer required to sit in a desk, listen, write papers, etc. I was in front of the classroom. I lived in my own apartment, didn’t have to study… You get the picture. In Santiago I was on my own.

The transition from León to Seattle was relatively easy in comparison to Santiago to Seattle. I met some really great people in León and Santiago.  The big difference was that many of those people I met in León were coming back to the states with me.  In Santiago, I was forced to say goodbyes to many.

 

Spain: What I miss

I miss Galicia, a lot. While living there, we had terrible rains. A number of times, I talked to friends back home who would say, “Ohh! It’s just like Seattle.” Which is exactly what i thought before I moved, but the truth is is that it rains A LOT MORE. Three straight months of rain/storms was intense. It rains so much in Galicia that they have different names for specific types of rain. And although I’m not a huge fan of rain, Galicia is absolutely stunning because of it – everything is so green and lush.

I miss going to “tomar algo” with friends, I miss the wine (Mencia and Albariño), I miss the food (pulpo, tortilla, calamares a la plancha), I miss hearing the bagpipes while walking through the city.

The region in which Santiago de Compostela is located in is called Galicia.  The people of Galicia (Gallegos)  have their own language, which is called Gallego/Galician. It is a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. One of my favorite words in Galician is ‘morriña,’ which comes from the Portuguese word ‘saudade’.  It means a feeling of longing, melancholy or nostalgia.  However, morriña has connotations that specifically apply to the region of Galicia. It means the nostalgia of Galicia, the sadness and longing for the place where one once was. This is what I have been feeling ever since I returned.

 

The US: What I am happy to have

This one should be a given, but I am happy to be with my family. I love being able to go downstairs in the morning and seeing my parents drinking their morning coffee and reading the newspaper and I love being able to see my siblings whenever I want.

I am also enjoying going to the grocery store on Sundays and the fact that banks don’t close at 2:00 PM.

 

Reflection

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsh

Packing my bags and moving to a country by myself really forced me to take a step outside of my comfort zone.  I was forced to put myself out there in order to find a place to live and meet people.  While abroad, I was able to travel quite a bit.  I traveled to a number of places in Spain as well as Belgium, France, Germany, Morocco, Italy and Holland. I am beyond grateful to have seen and experienced so many new places in such a short period of time. I still find myself becoming nervous about visiting cities and countries where I don’t speak the language, but I’ve learned that you can learn so much from these unfamiliar experiences.

Carnaval 2014

Hello world!  I apologize for my lack of posting – I’ve realized that I’ve been neglecting this blog quite a bit, but will do my best to post more frequently.

Here in Spain, we are currently celebrating Carnaval which is the festive season immediately before Lent begins.  Carnaval usually incorporates circus elements and masquerades.  It’s a HUGE deal!  Last week, I worked with Vanessa with helping the students of the colé create masks – Lions, parrots, and cats. Within a couple of days the classrooms converted from students to roaring lions, flying parrots and purring kitties :p We also celebrated by dressing up in certain outfits.  We were told what to wear by the ‘Meco’ – a clown set up at the entrance of the school.

  • Monday: Wear a tie
  • Tuesday: Wear your jacket inside out
  • Wednesday: Wear or paint your nose red
  • Thursday: Wear a wig
  • Friday: Students wore their costumes to school
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Thursday!

As I said before, Carnaval is a big deal – this is especially true in Cádiz. Luckily for me, Lindsay and Mariam live in Cádiz and I was fortunate enough to celebrate it with them!  Friday morning, I boarded a train that would take me from Santiago – Madrid, from Madrid – Cádiz, totally a whopping 11 hours of travel (woo hoo)! But it was definitely worth being able to spend the weekend with M and L! We decided to have a relatively low-key night in order to save our energies for Saturday’s festivities.  Our night consisted of wine, tapas and talking about anything and everything. Just like old times. The next morning we made our way downtown to walk around, eat sea urchins, listening to chirigotas, and get an idea of what our night would be like. Cádiz is absolutely beautiful! The sun was an extremely nice change from the Galician rain 🙂 The sea urchins had a very strong sea taste and were quite difficult to eat. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but had to try it! Chirigotas are groups of people who dress up and sing songs about current topics – usually in a humoristic manner.

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Mmm, sea urchins!
Mmm, sea urchins!
Lindsay!
Lindsay!

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La Gran Falla - I fell in love with this building!
La Gran Falla – I fell in love with this building!
Wind swept with Mare
Wind swept with Mare

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Chirigotas
Chirigotas

As 8 PM rolled around, we began to get ready.  Mariam’s boyfriend, Andrés and his cousin Leo came over to get ready with us.  Costumes were as follows:

  • Lindsay – Flamingo
  • Mariam and Andrés – Smurfs
  • Leo – …… I don’t really know what he was? (see pictures)
  • Me – Chicken

I had such a blast with everyone.  The night was filled with dancing, drinks, and music.

Love these girls!
Love these girls!

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Mariam, Leo, and myself
Mariam, Leo, and myself

Kids Garden

Kids Garden celebrated by dressing up as classes – Los Mayores dressed up as Mickey and Minnie and Los Pequeños were fresitas and music notes 🙂 Sooo preshhhhuuuus!!!!!

Las fresitas!
Las fresitas!

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"Donde esta Mickey?" ... "En su casa!!!!"
“Donde esta Mickey?” … “En su casa!!!!”

 

Bo Nadal – Celebrating Christmas

With Christmas being just days away, for the past month or so we have been working on Christmas related projects and activities at Kid’s Garden and the colé. Here’s how we celebrated!

Kid’s Garden:

At Kid’s Garden, la escuela infantil that I work at, we celebrated Christmas a few weeks ago. Celebrations included inviting the parents/families to come to the school to watch our Christmas show followed by snacks and beverages. There are two different groups at the school – los mayores (2-3 year olds), y los bebes (1 and younger). I was in charge of los mayores and we performed We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells while los bebes performed Mi Burrito Sabanero (http://bit.ly/1jyrE3o). Overall, the celebration was a lot of fun and soo cute. The children showed up to the school dressed up as shepherd’s or in other Christmasy outfits – absolutely precious! Eva, my boss wanted to introduce me to some of the parents before the show started, which was a somewhat nerve-wracking experience! I’ve seen quite a bit of the parents come and go each morning as they drop their child off at the school. However, I never actually had conversations with them. For me, the experience felt like I was speed dating – two or three minutes with one set of parents, then run over to the next, quick introduction, then run over to a next set of parents. The performance went great! I had feared that my group (as well as los bebes) would be crying the whole time or I would be dancing solo, but it was the total opposite. None of them cried and they actually danced with me!

Los bebes performing Mi Burrito Sabanero
Los bebes performing Mi Burrito Sabanero
Los mayores!
Los mayores!
Some of the lovely ladies I work with!
Some of the lovely ladies I work with!

 

CEIP – Serra De Outes:

Celebrations at the cole included making Christmas trees out of magazines, making ornaments, and singing Christmas related songs including We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Train’s Shake Up Christmas. The profe’s also had their own celebration a couple of days ago which consisted of a six-hour lunch accompanied with an endless supply of wine, some amazing seafood, licor café, and singing. I really love my kids. They all asked if I would be going home for Christmas to be with my family. When I told them no, they all gave me hugs and kisses and told me to have a Merry Christmas. Celebrations at the school took place this last Friday and school ended by 1:30. I had to work in Campus Sur – at Kid’s Garden that morning and wasn’t able to make it in time. I did however, take the first bus I could get on in order to make it to our staff lunch. The food was so delicious. I forgot about all the seafood Galicia has to offer! After our six-hour lunch “ended,” a few of us headed to a bar a little bit closer to the school for one last copa, where more dancing and drinking took place. Once the glasses were emptied, Toño and I said our goodbyes and made our way back to Santiago. Overall, it was a great night!

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Christmas trees made by the students!
Lunch view
Lunch view
Rosa, Toño, and I
Rosa, Toño, and I

 

Upcoming Christmas/New Year adventures:

  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • France